Early Barth list

If you're looking to get into the KD, there are ways and ways of getting there. And if you're looking to study Barth, reputable work studies the KD. But how did it get there?

We're in a period of time when early Barth work is being made available, especially in translation, especially since the Gesamtausgabe started rolling out of TVZ. (I love having a carrel only two stacks away!) As John Webster points out, Barth's theological formation started well before he wrote the KD, and we have some basic stages: 1) GD: the Calvin-titled Instruction in the Christian Religion taught at Gottingen (and finished at Bonn); 2) CD: the abortive Christian Dogmatics (Bonn); 3) KD: the Church Dogmatics begun in the 30's and spanning the remainder of his life. To some extent, Credo and the post-war Entwurf make a primer for the theology and method of KD. Otherwise it's a common move to take the CD and Anselm's FQI as a theological grounding for the start of KD.

Ah, but I was mentioning *early* work. And I don't mean Romerbrief. Sure, you can study the Barth-Thurneysen correspondence and his Safenwil sermons and the lectures in Das Wort Gott und Die Theologie along with R to get an idea of how he got to Gottingen, but nothing shapes him for the Dogmatics like teaching. And if you're reading the BT correspondence, you'll hear him talking about Gottingen to Thurneysen. In my new round of studies, I've hit on three books in ET that give this early period some flesh:
  1. I've been recommending the "Gottingen Dogmatics" for some time now to people who want an intro to Barth without climbing the Matterhorn. It's great for teaching Barth to Lutherans, since Barth is teaching his own early perspective on dogmatics in Lutheran terms to Lutheran students. Eerdmans split the three-term course in half, and only got to publishing the first half in ET, but it's good.
  2. The Theology of the Reformed Confessions, which he taught before GD, is a very nice companion to GD for the confessional side of things. Also starts in Lutheran terms for Lutheran students, but sheds so much light on his later work -- especially the arguments of Nein! against Brunner's (mis)use of Calvin. A must-read before his Gifford Lecture on the Scots Confession.
  3. The Resurrection of the Dead, which was likewise a course on 1 Cor 15, and the only original book of the three. If you keep Romerbrief in the running, you must pair it with this and the Philippians Erklarung. Always remember that, while doing "theology," Barth was always doing exegesis, and he often taught both kinds of courses in the same term. In his mind, you can't be a Reformation theologian without having a scripturally-literate theology, and if you miss his theological exegetics, you will not get Barth.
John Webster, in Barth's Early Works (good companion volume), also talks about the Calvin course and the Zwingli course, both of which are worth reading if you've got access to the Gesamtausgabe and German proficiency. Haven't found them in ET yet, but there's wealth of Barth to go around, and if they don't exist, perhaps someone will yet translate and publish them. But Webster's point, with which I find myself agreeing after the readings, is that KD didn't spring fully formed from the head of Zeus. Just as the intro to GD suggests, Barth's early work retains continuity with his master dogmatics (which should be said the other way 'round!). There are ways in which Barth certainly develops after Gottingen -- would you want to be pinned down into the shape of the courses of your first university teaching gig? Bonn and its opportunities for exposure to active Catholic theology had remarkable influence on Barth's work. But the real point is that if you want early Barth, read Romerbrief for its introductions, along with the Thurneysen letters, and let them help you map out stages to follow in his real development. This has been one.


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